Screen Hustler

3 ways To Crack The Hidden Job Market in The Screen Industry

Finding a job is a lot more work than actually having one. The unstated reality is that the film and TV industry is an aggressive culture that relies heavily on hidden networks and privileges on-set experience. These barriers represent a challenge for young people to enter the industry and established professionals to progress their careers.

International studies show that advertised job postings only represent approximately 20% of available employment opportunities. more than 80% of employment opportunities exist in the unadvertised market, commonly referred to as the “Hidden Job Market.”

The diagram below shows how job seekers typically look for jobs and how employers hire. Unadvertised opportunities exist in the green part of the pyramid.

vacancy pyramid how to crack the hidden job market film and tv industry

Only 20% of jobs are advertised, and yet you spend most of your time and effort tapping into the advertised jobs, registering with websites, actively searching for new open positions. So if we do the math here, you’re spending 100% of your time where there’s 20% of the action.

The hidden job market is not really hidden, it’s not covert, you don’t need any secret password to get in there, you just need to use a little bit of courage and a plan to navigate it. So how do you navigate it? To get started, let’s first take a look at how production companies, studios, and media corporations hire.

How do companies hire 80% of the time?

Let’s take the example of a production company that needs to hire a video editor. First, the company owner will look internally, if anyone from the existing staff can make a lateral move into the video editor role, then what was a vacancy for a split second has now moved to be filled.

Now let’s assume that everyone is already working to full capacity and no one within the company can do the job. Then the company owner will ask the existing employees for recommendations. And company owners like recommendations from their existing employees, because employee-referred new hires tend to be better performers than nonemployee-referred new hires. Plus the company won’t have to use a recruitment agency or post ads, and it’s a shorter process for them as they will go through a shortlist of portfolios compared to 500 applicants if they advertise the video editor vacancy.

As it’s all still happening in the green part of the vacancy pyramid, wouldn’t it be so much better to be a friend of someone who’s in that company and be on that shortlist straight away?

Here are some rules to get yourself into the green part of the vacancy pyramid of the triangle and on that shortlist.


Ask for advice not for a job

Investigate & offer to help

Let people know what you can do and what you want to do

People need to hear about you from somebody else and recommend you, but first, they need to know what you can do. You must identify your unique value depending on your industry and role and communicate that effectively. You shouldn’t make people think of you as “I think they have a degree in filmmaking or whatever.”

It’s easier for you to go into LinkedIn and click Easy Apply, but it is much more challenging to come up with a plan to organize your thoughts, choose your niche and build your brand identity around it, and effectively communicating what you can do and want to do. No potential recruiter is going to sit down with you and brainstorm about what you can do. However, at Screen Hustler, as part of our job to craft your portfolio, we focus heavily on helping you identify your unique value depending on your role in the screen industry, you’re welcome to see our services and contact us for a free consultation to chat about your brand identity.

Now going back to the vacant Video Editor position, assuming that none of the recommended people appealed to the company owner. Moving up the pyramid, you still have a chance to crack into the hidden job market, let’s uncover that in the following rule:

Networking is not asking people for a job

Forget about networking events, you don’t need to be in a room full of people introducing yourself to others as if you are in a job interview but standing around with a glass of wine. Networking is telling people as you possibly can who you are, what you’re good at, and what you want to do. It takes a bit more guts and planning to reach the right contacts in your industry and chat with them, this is not an easy world for introverts, but even as an introvert, you have more contacts than you think you do.

For example, get in touch with your university career center and ask them for alumni contacts in your field. Those alumni are probably well advanced in their careers by now. A rule of thumb, don’t ask for a job, ask for advice instead, people will help you if you ask them any other questions other than “got any jobs?” and most importantly, leave them with the main keywords that best reflect what you can do and what you want to do. They might not remember what your major is, however they are more likely to remember that you are talented in short-form video content creation for social media, and you are eager to magnify your skills to work on long-form video content creation.

Career Scene Investigation

You need your research skills, be inquisitive and nosy. Lack of industry knowledge makes it harder for especially young professionals to tap into the hidden job market, and this goes beyond technical skills and industry trends.

Let’s say you hear about a short film project that had a successful funding campaign, and they are about to start production soon, they might have already hired all crew members, but they might be having a problem with some extras cancelling. Do your investigation to gain preliminary information about the film, and get in touch with the people involved, congratulate their success on the funding campaign, and offer to help. The worst thing that can happen is they ignore you, or worse than that, they can say no, the best thing that can happen is they say yes.

Career scene investigation can provide a deeper understanding of the opportunities in your area and significantly help your marketing efforts to showcase yourself and crack the hidden job market.

To wrap up, in the screen industry or in any market, no matter how transparent on the surface, a large proportion of job vacancies are either not advertised or already have been filled through word-of-mouth connections. To crack the hidden job market you need to follow these rules:

  •  Showcase: people should know what you’re capable of and what makes you exemplary.
  • Ask for advice, not for a job: the advice will help you figure out your professional identity, niche, and purpose.
  • Investigate and offer to help: not all companies have vacancies but they all have problems, find one and offer to fix it.

That’s a wrap!